Like many other writing centers, our writing center is struggling with space needs. At the same time, we feel we are not reaching certain populations, like those registered for distance education courses, physically challenged students, and those who could benefit from our collaboration, but for one reason or another do not take advantage of our services.
The Internet, an electronic network linking computers throughout the world, invites teachers to explore its uses for writing instruction because it is a text-based environment. Users communicate by writing messages that travel out onto the Internet, read the prose in its vast pool of resources, and gather information from those resources for their own writing.
In recent years historical inquiry has found a niche in writing center scholarship. Most of this history has addressed macro issues—such as the professionalization of writing centers (Riley 1994), global notions of center theory or practice (several in Landmark Essays 1995), the development of writing center organizations (Kinkead 1995), the nature of early centers (Carino 1995 “Early”), and models for historicizing the center (Healy “Temple,” Carino 1996).
Although the physical writing center at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) has allowed us to reach many students and instructors, we still believe that a writing center is a “place without walls”; it is an idea; it is a place for discussion, for seeking, for sharing, and should not depend on particular physical locations. We like the idea of being “wall-less” because it posits that what we do in a writing center represents a better way to write, and should occur anywhere writing occurs.
As someone who began teaching writing in Silicon Valley, CA, it seemed inevitable that instructional technology would interweave with my career, whether in the writing center or the classroom. My experiences, however, have made me skeptical about the relationship between writing centers and instructional technology, and this skepticism stems from what I have seen as several persistent and misguided ideas
Writing centers have the freedom, flexibility—perhaps even the responsibility—to fly a bit freer into the future and to test the waters of new ways to interact with writers. One of those ways, which some of us are now exploring, is electronic tutoring, that is, connecting to stu-dents in other locations via computers.
Although writing centers have used computers for over a decade now, they have used them primarily in autotutorials (computer-assisted instruction) and for word processing. These applications reflect the influence of the process movement in composition studies and the writing center’s commitment to the individual writer.
Keywords Asynchronous, Synchronous, Tutor training, Tutor hiring, Technology First Paragraph So your writing center is going online? You’ve learned how to help many student writers in a traditional face-to-face situation-but how do you prepare for helping writers who meet with you in online tutoring sessions? With the kinds of changes that technology brings to writing …
Many writing centers have established complex web sites with elaborate “pages” requiring the support of special computer systems and technically skilled staff. Creation of such online labs may appear too costly and involved for smaller writing centers on tight budgets, an apprehension not fully justified.
In this essay, I present an email “tutorial”between myself and a graduate student enrolled in our master’s program in Technical Communication and Information Design (TCID).